UNKNOWN MASTER, Italian
(second half of 12th century in Rome)
The Madonna as Advocate (Haghiosoritissa)1150s
Tempera on panel covered with canvas, 107 x 58 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
Originally venerated in the convent church of Santa Maria in Campo Marzio (Rome) this painting is an icon: its miraculous powers are attested by Bombelli, in his 1792 engraving of the panel. Iconographically, the image is connected to the Constantinopolitan "Haghiosoritissa", a type of image in which the Virgin is represented in the act of interceding with Christ on behalf of the human race. The proposed dating of the painting to the middle of the twelfth century is generally accepted on the basis of stylistic similarities to a panel of the Last Judgment in the Pinacoteca of the Vatican Museums.
Stylistically different from other Roman panels that depict the same subject, the painting has been assigned to the same hand that executed the Blessing Christ (Vatican Museums, Pinacoteca), a picture that also originally decorated Santa Maria in Campo Marzio. The two works are characterized by an accentuated linearism typical of Byzantine style and a monumental quality that is distinctly Roman. They show identical treatments of chiaroscuro effects, simplified folds of the drapery, and effects light. Also shared by the two paintings are the brown intonations in the face, which give little concession to colorism, and certain signature characteristics like the rapid brushwork with which the artist defines the folds of Christ's neck or the dark triangle that divides the eyebrows of the Virgin.
The inscription at the bottom: "SCA VIRGO VIRGINUM".